£26,590 - £42,355 Price range
38 - 70 MPG
The BMW 3 Series Touring is an executive estate that is praised for its superb driving characteristics. Its main rivals are the comfortable Mercedes C-Class estate and the high-tech Audi A4 Avant. A left-field choice comes from Ford in the shape of its posh Mondeo Vignale.
Sporty and high quality best describes the 3 Series Touring’s interior. The dashboard is slightly tilted towards the driver and the seating position is arguably the best in class. If it’s luxury your looking for, however, we would advise taking a look at the C-Class estate, which has the most lavish interior in the class.
The way the 3 Series Touring drives is its biggest selling point – it’s simply flawless. All reviewers praise the car’s composure and agility. The steering, suspension and drivetrain all work in tandem to engage the driver and reward them like no other rival can.
There is an engine for most needs and the majority of them are fuel efficient and relatively cheap to tax. Our pick would be the 320d diesel which offers the best blend between performance and low running costs. The eight-speed automatic also suits the car. Its an expensive option, but one that’s worth paying for if you regularly drive in town or just want to make driving as stress-free as possible.
Standard equipment is generous for a BMW and includes climate control, active cruise control, DAB digital radio and a Bluetooth phone connection.
Cheapest to buy: 316i SE petrol
Cheapest to run: 320d EfficientDynamics diesel
Fastest model: 340i Sport petrol
Most Popular: 318i Sport petrol
Fit and finish inside the BMW is excellent — everything feels built to last and expensive. All the controls are laid out simply and angled towards the driver to make them simple to use on the move. As with its rivals, the BMW has a large colour display in the centre of the dashboard that’s used to control many of the car’s systems.
BMW 3 Series Touring passenger and boot space
Traditionally, BMW Touring models are not the most spacious of estates, but the 3 Touring can fit almost 500 litres with the seats up (ahead of either the Audi A4 Avant or Mercedes C-Class) and 1,500 litres with them down — a figure neither of its rivals can better. The load floor is flat and wide with minimal wheel arch intrusion and a 40:20:40 split rear seat.
Very few manufacturers can match BMW for ride and handling and the 3 Series Touring achieves the standards set by the rest of the range. Its rear-wheel drive set-up (four-wheel drive is an option) means there’s loads of grip in corners and the steering is just the right weight for tackling bends with confidence.
Most reviews say the £250 optional variable steering isn’t worth the money. It’s supposed to make the car feel quicker to steer on A-roads, but in doing so it loses the feel of the standard set-up and is also less predictable.
The £750 adaptive dampers are an option well worth going for, though. They have three settings — Comfort, Sport and Sport+. The first of those gives the BMW comfort that gets close to matching a Mercedes C-Class, while the other extreme (Sport+) cuts down body lean making a C-Class feel cumbersome by comparison. Even the BMW’s brakes win praise from critics.
BMW offers the Touring with exactly the same engines as it fits to the saloon – you get a wide selection to choose from whether you’re looking for petrol or diesel power.
BMW 3 Series Touring petrol engines
For what is quite a large estate, the three-cylinder 1.5-litre petrol engine fitted to the 318i might be a little underpowered if the car is regularly filled with people and luggage. Fully loaded it will have to be worked very hard to hit its 0-62mph time of 8.9 seconds, but with a quoted fuel economy figure of 52.2mpg and CO2 emissions of 133g/km (for road tax of £110 per year) it’ll be cheap to run.
You can also choose between the 184hp 320i and 252hp 330i, both of which are 2.0-litre engines. The former gets from 0-62mph in 7.2 seconds and keeps going until it hits 146mph, returning fuel economy of 47.9mpg and costing £130 per year to tax. The 330i costs £180 to tax and achieves up to 43.5mpg, but is a good bit quicker with the 0-62mph dash dispatched in 5.9 seconds.
Going for the 340i model not only adds a lot more performance, it also brings with it a degree of sophistication. Its 3.0-litre engine has six cylinders, silky smooth power delivery and tingly engine note that sounds special. The noise is backed up by impressive figures – 0-62mph takes 5.5 seconds and the car has to be limited to 155mph. The extra cylinders also increase running costs with fuel economy dropping to 36.7mpg and annual road tax costing £225 a year.
BMW 3 Series Touring diesel engines
The 316d suffers from the same problem as the basic petrol – it’s a teeny bit slow, although its extra torque makes it better suited to moving the car when it is fully loaded. We would walk past it and the 318d in the showroom, though, and make a beeline for the excellent 320d. It offers a superb balance of fuel economy and performance – racing from 0-62mph in 7.6 seconds, yet being capable of returning fuel economy of 64.3mpg and costing £110 per year to tax.
As with the petrol range you can also ditch four cylinders in favour of six if you fancy a more cultured driving experience and don’t mind paying a little more. The 330d has a healthy 258hp, enough to get the Touring from 0-62mph in 5.6 seconds. The 335d shaves more than half a second off that time. With 313hp it has more power, but the improved acceleration is mostly down to its standard xDrive four-wheel drive, which helps the car lay down its huge 465Ib ft of torque no matter the weather. The 335d costs only a little more than the 330d to run with fuel economy sitting at 49.6mpg rather than 53.3mpg.
Euro NCAP are yet to sacrifice numerous dummies in the name of giving the 3 Series Touring a safety rating, but once they do, expect the majority of them to come back relatively unscathed. A five-star rating is reasonable to predict here, as the saloon variant achieved that rating with ease.
Six airbags are equipped as as standard, while a whole host of “systems” and “controls” offer preventive measures to help drivers avoid a bump in the first place.
Although standard equipment is more than acceptable, a visit to the options list can soon ramp up the cost. The head-up display is worth considering though, it beams vital information onto the windscreen so you can keep your eyes on the road.
Ticking the options list can soon send a BMW 3-series Touring into absolutely ludicrous money – we’d got the £33,500 car up past 50 grand by the time we gave up – so be careful what you spec.
For all the warnings we can offer about not ticking boxes, there are some nice options on the list. The natty heads-up display system is an £825 option, while the contactless “comfort access” that saves you having to fumble about with keys and latches is £495. Neither of those will get old any time soon.
The most expensive option is that eight-speed automatic gearbox. It’s a £1,500 premium over the manual car, but it is praised across the board.
Any car that scores 10/10 from the UK’s leading car experts is worth a second look and the 3 Series Touring does it consistently with any engine from multiple publications.
While reviewers largely feel there is a slight driving edge in the saloon’s favour, the difference is minimal and the Touring offers so much more for such little extra outlay that it may be an even better car. The Touring is well worth a look, as it isn’t just the best car in its class, but it is one of the best all-round cars on sale today.